Chapter 6: February 2016

Molly's letter was a success. Headmaster Slinkhard agreed that Peeves could benefit from the company of a fellow poltergeist and had issued a request to the Ministry to have one transferred. Molly was thrilled, but her friends didn't see why she was so concerned.

"Look, an occupied Peeves will be better for everyone," Molly insisted. "He'll be less bothersome and destructive. You'll see. Hogwarts will be better off."

In addition to this development, a notice went up on the common room noticeboards about halfway into February announcing the annual school-wide snowball fight. Molly wouldn't even have thought twice about it, until Debbie brought it up.

"We should do it," she said one day. "Doesn't it sound like fun?"

"Uh… no," Molly said, making a face. What was Debbie thinking?

"Actually, I'm with Debbie," Julie agreed. "I think it could be a good time."

"Seriously?" Molly frowned. "It's throwing snow. It's hitting people with balls of snow. Where's the fun in that?"

"Well it's a competition, see?" Sarah explained. "So the fun is in winning."

"Exactly," Julie nodded. "And a good competition is healthy now and then."

"Well I'm happy enough just competing to be top of the class," Molly declared. "Which is a challenge given my opponents." She referred to her three friends, hoping that the compliment would deter them from their newfound interest in snowball fighting.

"It's a different kind of competition," Debbie said. "That's more of a long-term commitment. This is a one-time, blow off some steam kind of thing."

"I don't have any steam to blow off though," Molly frowned.

"Sure you do," Julie insisted. "Everyone does."

"Alright," Molly agreed. "But I don't need to blow it off physically. I'm an intellectual being."

"That doesn't mean it doesn't do you good to just run around sometimes," Julie said. "I mean, all we do all day is sit around. Aren't you worried about getting lazy?"

"With all the stairs we have to climb everyday?" Molly raised her eyebrows. "Not likely."

"Come on Molly," Debbie pleaded. "Come participate in the snowball fight. We can have our own mini-competition. You and Sarah against me and Debbie."

Molly adamantly shook her head. "You guys go, but I have no desire to run around in the freezing cold and get soaked through my core."

"But it won't be any fun without you," Sarah complained. "I won't have anyone on my team."

"You'll have the rest of Gryffindor house," Molly corrected her. "I think you'll have plenty of teammates."

"Well sure, but none that are my friends," Sarah amended.

Molly shrugged, unsure what she was supposed to say. If she didn't want to participate in a snowball fight, she shouldn't feel forced to.

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Throughout the remainder of the week, Molly's friends continued to try and pester her into coming down to the snowball fight. Molly continued to refuse until finally she couldn't help it and found herself yelling that if they didn't stop bringing it up, she'd spill ink all over their history notes. Though they knew she'd never do that, if only because she knew they'd retaliate, they understood the emotions behind her outburst and backed off.

When Saturday, the day of the snowball fight, arrived, Molly bid her friends goodbye as they left the Great Hall after lunch to change into their winter gear. Molly headed up to the study room alone, intending to get a head start on her charms essay for Professor Flitwick.

The study room felt empty without the other girls. Molly was reminded of those days when they were taking their flying lessons over again and she'd spent a few afternoons up here alone. At least then they'd all been in agreement over the arrangement. Now, Molly felt the tension between her and her friends. And she was frustrated. How come they always wanted to do things she didn't want to do? First it was re-taking the flying lessons and now with the snowball fight. It was fine for friends to have different interests, but why was Molly always the odd one out.

With a sigh, Molly realized she no longer wanted to be in the study room alone. It was only reminding her of her friends, and she didn't want to be thinking about them right now.

Molly gathered up her things and placed them in her bag before heading out. She could go to the library or the common room. Normally, she'd choose the library, but with most of the school outside throwing snow, she figured the common room would be relatively empty. And she honestly didn't feel like being alone in the cavernous library.

When Molly reached Gryffindor Tower, she saw that she was right. There was a scattering of upperclassmen lounging on the couches, but there weren't being too loud. And the common room was devoid of anyone under fifth year, save for Molly, so she knew choosing the common room had been a good idea. And it wouldn't remind her of her friends, because they could never study here as a group.

Molly chose a table in the corner, where she would be most removed from the rest of the room's occupants and spread out her charms things around her, trying to recreate the feel of her workspace in the study room. It wasn't perfect, but it would do.

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"Molly?"

Molly turned to see Victoire tentatively approaching her at her makeshift study space in the common room.

"Hey Victoire," Molly greeted her older cousin.

"Is everything alright?" Victoire wondered. "Don't you usually study… you know… somewhere else?"

Molly found Victoire's wording amusing, but appreciated her discretion about the study room.

"Yeah," she shrugged. "I didn't really want to be there today."

"Is everything all right with your friends?" Victoire wondered. "Did you have a fight?"

"Not exactly," Molly shook her head.

"What does that mean?" Victoire asked, concern in her voice. She sat down next to Molly and Molly knew she wasn't going to leave without an explanation.

"It's no big deal," Molly shrugged. "They're just all down at the snowball fight and I didn't want to be in the room alone."

"Why aren't you at the snowball fight?" Victoire wondered.

"Why aren't you?" Molly countered.

"I suppose that's fair," Victoire allowed. "Except none of my friends are down there and yours are."

Molly sighed. "Fine," she muttered. "Because it's a waste of time? Because it's pointless? Because I don't want to be covered in snow for no reason?"

"It wouldn't be for no reason if you were having fun," Victoire pointed out.

"Right, except it wouldn't be any fun," Molly replied. "Not for me."

"Even if you were playing with all your friends?" Victoire asked.

Molly shrugged yet again.

"Alright, well look," Victoire said. "Maybe I'm totally off here, and if I am then that's fine and I'll leave. But I think the reason you don't want to be in that study room is that you really wish you were down there with your friends and you regret telling them no."

"That's not it at all," Molly shook her head. "I'm glad I didn't go. I'm just upset that they did."

"And why is that?" Victoire wondered.

Molly thought for a moment. "Because it's like they're always doing things I don't want to do. I like hanging out with them, but they never want to do the things that I'm interested in. Unless it's something we're all interested in. Does that make sense?"

"Sort of," Victoire nodded. "What sort of things do you want to do?"

"Well I like to study," Molly said.

Victoire nodded. "But don't you already all do that, like… all the time."

Molly nodded, seeing Victoire's point.

"But it's just… when we have a free Saturday afternoon – like today," Molly said. "They all want to run around and throw snow at each other, while I'd be perfectly happy having a wizard's chess tournament or something."

"Well have you ever told them that?" Victoire wondered.

Molly realized she hadn't. "No," she shook her head.

"So then how are they supposed to know that's something you'd want to do?" Victoire asked.

"I guess they couldn't," Molly nodded. "But they wouldn't want to anyway, or one of them would have suggested it."

"Or maybe they're all thinking it, but nobody's brought it up yet," Victoire suggested. "I think it's worth suggesting. If they're really your friends, they'll want to do the things you want to do, the same way sometimes you do the things that they want to do."

Molly nodded. "Except… except I don't do the things they want to do," she realized. Maybe she was the bad friend, always saying no to things. Her friends were trying to include her. Molly was the one excluding herself. "Thanks Vic," Molly said, giving her cousin a hug as she threw her things into her bag and hurried up to her dorm. If she moved quickly, she could make it out for the end of the snowball fight.

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"Molly?" Sarah gasped when Molly crawled up behind her. The snowball fight was still going strong – it seemed that Molly hadn't been too late after all.

"Hey Sarah," Molly smiled. "I decided to come after all."

"I'm glad you did," Sarah said, reaching to give Molly a hug. "Now cover me. I'm going after Debbie and Julie."

Molly grabbed a handful of snowballs and cradled them in her left hand. With her right, she wrapped her hand around one of the balls and then peeked out from behind the massive Gryffindor snow fortress as Sarah made a beeline for the Ravenclaw wall.

Julie and Debbie appeared from around the side, screaming and throwing snowballs at Sarah as they did. They thought they had Sarah outnumbered, but Molly was ready.

She threw the first snowball, hitting Debbie squarely in the chest. Before Debbie had time to process where it had come from, Molly had launched a second snowball straight for Julie.

"It's an ambush!" Julie screamed as the second snowball broke against her shoulder.

They retreated, and Molly ran out from behind the safety of the shelter, joining with Sarah as the two Gryffindors pelted their Ravenclaw friends with snowball after snowball.

"Molly!" Debbie cried, catching sight of her second attacker. "What are you doing here?"

"I changed my mind," Molly replied. "I came down as fast as I could."

"You'd better watch out!" Julie warned, taking refuge once again behind the Ravenclaw wall. "As soon as we make more snowballs, we're coming after you!"

Sarah and Molly ran back to the safety of their own fortress, having used up all the snowballs in their arsenal. Frantically, the two girls scraped together some more snow, preparing for a second attack.

MmMmMmMmMmM

The game lasted about an hour more, and then Gryffindor were declared the winners.

"We would've beaten you guys if Molly hadn't shown up halfway through the game," Julie grumbled as they trooped back up to the seventh floor to change before dinner. "There should be a rule about that – no joining the game after it's already started."

"You're just sore losers," Sarah threw back. "We won fair and square. And don't tell me you're not glad Molly decided to play."

"You're right," Debbie nodded. "It was definitely more fun with all four of us."

Shockingly, Molly found herself agreeing. Though she'd been convinced it would be a waste of time and that she couldn't possibly have fun throwing snow, she'd quite enjoyed her afternoon. And when her friends asked if she'd regretted coming to play, she could honestly say that she didn't. Not one bit.

MmMmMmMmMmM

Back in her dorm, Molly was relieved to be able to change into some warm clothes. As much fun as the snowball fight had been, she was freezing and needed to warm up. She pulled on her thickest socks and warmest sweater, hoping that it would speed the warming process. She also toweled her hair dry and then pulled it up into a bun to keep it from dampening her back.

Ready for dinner, Molly and Sarah left Gryffindor Tower and began to make their way back to the Great Hall, where they'd be meeting up with Julie and Debbie. As they stepped out onto the Grand Staircase though, a gush of water fell right over both their heads, soaking them even more than they had been outside.

"Wha - ?" Molly cried out, looking around frantically for the culprit.

She looked up and discovered that it had been Peeves who'd dropped the bucket of water over her and Sarah. And he wasn't alone.

"Peeves!" Molly cried in outrage. "What did you do that for? I thought we were friends!"

"Peeves doesn't need girlsies for friends anymore," Peeves said. He gestured to the figure to his right – a female poltergeist from the looks of her. Probably the one Headmaster Slinkhard had requested to have transferred to keep Peeves company. "Peeves has Meeva now."

Molly shook her head in disbelief. "But Peeves," she said. "Now that you have Meeva, you can stop pulling pranks on students."

Peeves shook his head, but it was Meeva who replied.

"Peeves can't stop," Meeva said. "Peeves is too funny." Then Meeva blew a raspberry.

Molly turned to Sarah with a terrified look in her eye.

"What have I done?"

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After changing clothes yet again, Molly and Sarah met up with Julie and Debbie at the Ravenclaw table in the Great Hall to recount their adventures with Peeves and Meeva.

"Molly, I told you this was a bad idea," Julie said. "He's only going to get worse now that he's got Meeva to impress."

"You think that's what it is?" Molly wondered. "He's trying to impress her?"

"Of course he is," Debbie nodded. "It's basic psychology."

"But they're poltergeists," Molly pointed out. "Does psychology apply to them?"

"Of course," Debbie said, seeming almost offended. "They're still people."

"I wonder if Headmaster Slinkhard would send Meeva back," Molly mused. "One Peeves is enough. We don't need a second one."

"He couldn't," Julie shook her head. "Not after all the trouble he went to in order to bring her here."

Molly nodded. Julie was right. It looked like they were stuck with Meeva.

"I'm sorry guys," she sighed.

"It's fine," Sarah replied. "We'll manage."

"Yeah," Debbie nodded. "Hogwarts has done fine with Peeves all these years. I'm sure we'll be able to handle Meeva too."

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The next weekend found the four girls in their study room as usual, revising their notes. They had completed all their pending assignments, leaving them with some free time to go over past material.

"I'm bored," Sarah announced, putting down her potions notes dramatically.

"Try switching to transfiguration," Debbie suggested. "That's what I'm revising."

"No, I'm tired of revising," Sarah sighed. "I need a break."

Suddenly, Molly thought of Victoire's suggestion the previous weekend that she propose a wizard's chess tournament. She felt her chest tighten with fear as she contemplated bringing it up, but decided to use some of her Gryffindor courage and just go for it.

"We could play a game of wizard's chess," she said in a quiet voice.

"Hey, that's not a bad idea," Julie said, looking up from her history notes. "It takes logic, reasoning, concentration… it would be a great way to expand our mental capacities in a fun and interesting way."

Spurred on by Julie's approval, Molly continued. "Maybe we could have a tournament?" she suggested. "I don't know… it could be fun."

"Yeah, a little friendly competition is always good," Debbie agreed. "I'm in."

"Me too," Sarah smiled, shoving her notes to the side. "Has anyone got a board?"

"Actually, I have one," Molly confessed. She'd started carrying it around after her conversation with Victoire, looking for the right time to bring the topic up.

"Great!" Julie said. "So Molly, how about you and Sarah play first, and then Debbie and I will play each other. And then the winners go up against one another."

Molly nodded, liking the sound of that. "Sounds like a plan," she said, setting the board in the center of their desk configuration and setting up the pieces.

Victoire had been right.